This 8-week interfaith devotional has been designed to encourage and uplift you as you connect your faith with your love of nature. The devotional is part of the Healthy Trees, Healthy People, Healthy Faith study in Lexington, Kentucky, which you can read about here. But you can use this devotional wherever you are in the world that you can find some trees! This week’s devotional focuses on the sacredness of trees.
[Did you miss Weeks 1 and 2? Scroll to the bottom for links to those devotionals.]
The Sacredness of Trees
From the Hindu Tradition:
The Supreme Divine Personality said: They speak of an eternal aśhvatth tree with its roots above and branches below. Its leaves are the Vedic hymns, and one who knows the secret of this tree is the knower of the Vedas. (Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 15, Verse 1)
Trees live on a different time scale than humans—some live for thousands of years. For example, an oak tree stands today at a site that is said to be the exact spot where the angels visited Abraham in the Old Testament of the Bible. The tree is reported to be 5,000 years old.
Similarly, the sacred banyan tree in the town of Jyotisar, India, is said to be more than 5,000 years old. But the tree is suffering because of improper pruning, paving over the ground around it, attaching lights and strings with people’s prayers, and overall neglect because of two different groups fighting over who should care for the tree.
As you walk and view the trees for signs of stress (such as pests, fungus, canopy die-off, root damage from mowers or construction, and “mulch volcanoes”) you’re learning how important it is for humans to be educated and faithful stewards of trees.
Questions to ponder:
- What has surprised you so far about your experience with the trees on your walks?
- In what ways (if any) are you noticing your faith changing or deepening as you’re seeing the connections between trees and the different faiths of the world?
Prayer:God of Creation, most of us spend far more time sitting in the glow of a screen than in the shade of a tree. Thank you for this opportunity to commune with these ancient beings that have rooted faith and communities for thousands of years. Teach us to work together – scientists, faith leaders, and all citizens – to protect the sacredness of your trees. Amen.
[If you want to sign up to receive this devotional via email, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Thanks to Matthew Sleeth for contributing to this devotional. His forthcoming book is called Reforesting Faith. Visit www.blessedearth.org for more information.
Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church (ELCA).